Charlie Mullins 2
Charlie Mullins

What makes a successful entrepreneur?

I started my business from scratch with just a bag of tools and a very old van bought at auction. Pimlico Plumbers now has over 150 professional plumbers and a support team of around 50 staff, with a turnover in excess of £17 million, so I must be doing something right.

But it wasn’t long ago that I probably couldn’t even spell ‘entrepreneur’ let alone pronounce the word, despite the fact that according to the dictionary I’d been one formore than 30 years.

The truth is these days the word is commonplace, and every two bob spiv uses it as a job description, minus the irony of a Del Boy or an Arthur Daley.

This is what I think we should probably call the Entrepreneur Paradox; in short anyone who introduces themselves as ‘an entrepreneur’ almost certainly isn’t, and in fact is about as likely to become a business success as a contestant on Alan Sugar’s comedygame show. Me, I’m a plumber, always have been, always will be, and the reason I go to work every day in 2012 is the same as it was in the 1970s - to make a quid to pay the bills and hopefully have a bit left over.

Now I’ve demystified the subject material I guess the question really is why do other people insist on calling me an entrepreneur while thousands of others who fix pipes and repairs boilers for a living still get referred to as plumbers?

Maybe I’m the wrong person to ask because most of what I’ve always done seems like common sense to me, but then again how often in life do you meet people who seem to struggle with that concept? I guess the answer there is - it ain’t that common.

Anyway since I started Pimlico Plumbers it has always been important to not only doa good job but to make sure that my customers know I’ve done a good job. Sounds simple, almost stupid to point out, but you’d be surprised how many tradesmen are happy to grab a cheque from the housekeeper and disappear, never to return.

Me, anywhere I go I always want a return invite, especially if there’s something to come back for, which in the case of a plumber is more work.

These days we use radio, television, newspapers and the internet to make sure people know about Pimlico Plumbers, how to contact us and what we have to offer. Of course most of that was beyond reach 35 years ago, but it was still important that my customers knew how to get hold of me when they wanted something else doing, or whoto recommend to a friend.

And some things haven’t changed and never will; as long as I’m in charge at Pimlico Plumber I will never leave a job without leaving a business card and recommending further work if there’s anything else that needs doing.

That’s just one small example of why I think Pimlico has thrived over the years while other, no less skilled plumbers, have struggled. There are people who apparently think I’ve got OCD when it comes to details, and while I don’t know about that, it’s fair to say I’m a strong believer that no matter how well you do something you can always do betternext time. Never rest on your laurels!

Another thing I’ve learned is that you should never be afraid (or too proud) to look around and see what others are up to, and if it’s good adopt or adapt, but by the same token, just because something has never been done before don’t be afraid to be the first, somebody has to.

In short, the key to my success is communication; to never believing that I’ve developed the perfect formula, and never being afraid to change and adapt, whether that be to new trends in the plumbing industry, or as is the case at the moment, to increasingly challenging economic conditions.

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